Tag Archives: advertising

Update August 30, 2021

I’ve had to re-post the ‘Profiting from Brainiwashing’ article in order to break the link to the original, which I have now deleted. Why? Because a Trump-won-the-election-supporter linked to the post with the following comment:

What the….?

I was so shocked, I commented with this:

I honestly don’t know whether this person somehow interpreted what I wrote as some kind of validation of his/her own worldview, or simply wanted to use my work as a ‘see, this is what the enemy are saying’ kind of thing. But I won’t be used in this way.

Apologies. I’m still in shock. 😦
Meeks

Covid19 may make economies crash and burn, and cause hundreds of thousands to die gasping for air, but Big Tech has never had it so good.

Why?

Because social media is pretty much the only safe way for most of us to stay connected at the moment, certainly in Australia.

But, like all good things, there is a downside to social media, and it’s called profiling. Profiling is where supposedly randomised private data, from a whole lot of different sources, is combined to produce an eerily accurate picture of us.

What data?

  • Where we live and where we go. Thank you, Geo location,
  • Who we see and what we say to those people. You guessed it, all forms of social media because hey, it’s good to share, right?
  • What we buy. Our bank details may be sacrosanct, but our purchase transactions are fair game. Now think about all the things you buy online from milk to sex toys! Should I mention money spent on porn sites? Or on gambling?
  • And of course, what we look like, or what our kids look like, or their friends etc etc. All thanks to those pics we love to share.

Back in the day when humans had to find, record, and search data manually [or with the help of a ‘dumb’ database search engine], collating stuff about specific people from a whole lot of different data locations was about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.

But that was then. Nowadays, it’s not people who sticky beak on our lives, it’s bits of code performed millions, nay, zillions of times per minute. These algorithms don’t stop for sleep, or food, or coffee breaks… Bye, bye haystack.

But profiling is only one side of the coin. Having collected all of this data about people, what do you do with it?

To find out, Facebook selected 689,003 random users and divided them into two groups. Then:

‘…Facebook elected to show only negative content to the first group for a week while showing only positive content to the second. They monitored each group’s behaviour.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

What Facebook found was that people in both groups responded to the conditioning by changing their behaviour. What happened? Negative conditioning resulted in people creating more negative posts while positive conditioning saw them creating more positive posts.

Do you know what conditioning is? I’ll give you a hint – it’s sometimes called ‘brain washing’. Facebook brainwashed over 600,000 users without their permission for a week:

‘In other words, our moods and behaviours can be influenced by our online interactions, which can be controlled by whoever runs the algorithms responsible for what newsfeed we read and what ads we see.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

We all know about the role Cambridge Analytica played in both Brexit and the election that saw Trump gain the Whitehouse. That was brain washing at work, yet millions of people still believe that losing their privacy is no big deal.

Profiling is not about exposing anyone’s nasty little secrets. It’s about turning us all into ‘products’, products that can be manipulated according to the needs of the highest bidder.

‘And it is not just advertisers that want to use our data this way. Employers, health insurance provider, law enforcement agencies, the tax department and pretty much anyone who can pay the price to get access to our profiles, can do so.’

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

In case anyone missed the links under each quote, you can read the entire article here: https://www.michaelwest.com.au/captive-mood-how-big-tech-manipulates-your-emotions-to-serve-advertisers/

Apologies for all the angry posts lately. NSW recorded 1,029 new Delta cases yesterday. My state, Victoria, recorded 80 and the trend is up, in part because of people who’ve been brainwashed into believing the pandemic is just a beat up. I’m becoming more glass-half-empty by the day.

Stay well and stay safe,
Meeks


The inevitable decline of Facebook

I came in to take a break from mowing [the grass] and stumbled across a Medium article about why Facebook is dead ‘but doesn’t know it’. As I loathe Facebook with a passion, I was instantly intrigued.

The gist of the article is that generational change is killing Facebook. The youngest users don’t want to share a platform with the older members of their family – ewwww – while the politically inclined will head off to new apps that won’t fact check them, or try to make them feel bad about themselves.

As for the rest of us, we’ll be demanding things from social media that Facebook can’t or won’t offer, such as:

For social media users, expect (or demand) to see the introduction of a User’s Bill of Rights, including beefed-up privacy standards, far-less addictive algorithms, innovative protection from foreign trolling, and perhaps even ad revenue sharing… go Medium! It’s our presence and content creation that gives these platforms all their power and profit, and it’s time they start treating us more like customers and contributors and less like the product being sold.’

https://medium.com/better-marketing/facebook-is-dead-it-just-doesnt-know-it-yet-614e723e9f72

The nett effect of all this change will be that Facebook will become the domain of seniors. And I can’t wait! Having seen the demise of Geo Cities, and then Myspace, I knew the same would happen to Facebook, but I didn’t think it would take so very long, or that the platform would do so much damage along the way.

The one thing that bothers me is that I know something else will come along in time. I can only hope that by then, we will have learned to protect ourselves from the rapacious clutches of developers who see us as ‘the product’.

Facebook is dead, long live Facebook?

Meeks

p.s. you don’t have to sign in to Medium to read the article.


The price of convenience

I’ve been concerned about online privacy for a couple of years now, but the article I just read still shocked me. It’s titled ‘Your Apps Know Where You Were Last Night, And They’re Not Keeping It Secret’.

You can read the entire article here:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/location-data-privacy-apps.html

I’ve had geo location turned off on my phone since I bought it, but until today, I always felt a little silly; was I being paranoid for no real reason?

You may be wondering that too, but the case study of Lisa Magrin, a 46-year-old math teacher, may change your mind. It certainly confirmed my fears.

An app on the device [smart phone] gathered her location information, which was then sold without her knowledge. It recorded her whereabouts as often as every two seconds, according to a database of more than a million phones in the New York area that was reviewed by The New York Times. While Ms. Magrin’s identity was not disclosed in those records, The Times was able to easily connect her to that dot.

Lisa Magrin’s movements over a four month period

Lisa Magrin’s every single move was recorded…without her knowledge or consent. Then that information was sold. The Times article doesn’t mention who or what the information was sold to, but there’s a good chance it was sold to an ad network that collated her location data with her online data – Facebook comments, Instagram pictures, websites she visited, products she bought with her credit card, all those convenient little things we take for granted every day.

That’s a lot of information, and it’s meant to be anonymous, but what does anonymous actually mean? When your ‘anonymous’ data knows where you live and can track everything you do, the fact that it doesn’t automatically name you means nothing.

The ad networks that mine this data don’t need your name to target you for advertising. But that information is for sale, and there are no guarantees that the buyer will be a ‘harmless’ advertiser.

“Pffft! I have nothing to hide,” you say. “Besides, who’d want to buy my boring info anyway?”

Nothing to hide, huh? I wonder.

Does your wife know you visit that massage parlour for a quickie when you should be at squash?

Does your Mum know you spend hours on that porn site?

Do you use your birthday as the password for every online game you play?

Are you absolutely sure there’s nothing you wouldn’t want your co-workers to know about you?

As for who would want to buy that boring information, hackers would, and stalkers, or your abusive ex-husband perhaps. The list is endless, and the danger is real, not just for you, personally, but for those near you who may be targeted via information you unwittingly provide.

Stealing this kind of information will become illegal eventually, but until then you have to ask yourself – is that little bit of convenience really worth it? Or is your life too high a price to pay?

Meeks

p.s. My thanks to Chris the StoryReadingApe for this point:

Some of the things that can happen when your data is hacked can also apply to data that’s been sold to hackers, either directly or indirectly.


Please help!

The on again, off again advert in my no.1 sidebar is back for the umpteenth time so I’m asking everyone who visits my blog to click the button under the advert that says ‘Report this ad.’ [or words to that effect]. I’m going to re-run this post once a week until something happens to break this deadlock.

I have no idea whether I’ll achieve any lasting reversal, but my only other option is to shut up shop and start a new blog somewhere else. Meeka’s Mind has been a wonderful home to me, and I really, REALLY don’t want to leave, but in these circumstances, paying not to have ads would feel exactly like paying protection money. Can’t do that. 😦

Thanks in advance,

Meeks


#Facebook selling children’s pain

Just read an article on the Passive Guy about ‘…a leaked confidential document prepared by Facebook that revealed the company had offered advertisers the opportunity to target 6.4 million younger users, some only 14 years old, during moments of psychological vulnerability, such as when they felt “worthless,” “insecure,” “stressed,” “defeated,” “anxious,” and like a “failure.”

I was shocked. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I don’t like Facebook. I’ve even compared Facebook to Big Brother, but this? This goes beyond anything that I would call ‘normal’ business practices. Is this truly the shape of the new world? Are we truly prepared to accept this behaviour as normal?

But wait, there’s more. One of the comments to the article was this:

‘ If you are that entwined with Facebook then you pretty much deserve what you get.’

Really? I replied with this:

‘I’m Australian and I don’t automatically blame the victim. I loathe Facebook and the more I learn about it the more I hate what it’s doing. If this article is accurate, then it’s Facebook that deserves condemnation, not the young and vulnerable who are only doing what millions? billions? of other vulnerable people are doing worldwide…’

Facebook is a monster that we created because we are the only product that Mark Zuckerberg sells. Think about it.

Meeks


Is Facebook the real Big Brother?

 

Image courtesy of orwelltoday.com

Image courtesy of orwelltoday.com

I read George Orwell’s ‘1984’ in the mid-70’s, but even then it was pretty obvious that his prediction of a world ruled by ‘Big Brother’ just wasn’t going to happen.

For starters, the technology simply was not there, and then there was the disconnect with [Western] society itself. Rather than being downtrodden and submissive, individuals in the ’80’s had never had it so good. So I filed 1984 away as another example of science fiction getting it wrong.

Now, let’s jump to 2017 and the article I read in Quartz this morning:

Facebook says it can sway elections after all—for a price

Essentially, the story is that Facebook didn’t sway the 2016 election with ‘fake news’, but in the future, candidates might get themselves elected by buying into a paid campaign:

To the majority of its users, Facebook seems like a passive platform for sharing news and engaging with various communities. But the social network is also a sophisticated multibillion-dollar advertising giant that is, at its heart, in the business of persuasion.

‘Advertising giant’. Wow. Of course…

I’ve never enjoyed spending time on Facebook, so I’ve never really taken the Facebook phenomenon seriously, yet now I feel as if the wool has literally been torn from my eyes. Or perhaps it’s just that so many disparate pieces of information have finally coalesced into a new picture of the world. Think about this:

  • As at February, 2017 there were ‘ 1.86 billion monthly active Facebook users’ [https://zephoria.com/top-15-valuable-facebook-statistics/]
  • Facebook already possesses masses of information from and about its users,
  • This information is provided, free of charge and voluntarily, by the users themselves [every ‘Like’ is data],
  • The users provide this information because at some level they either trust Facebook or enjoy the experience enough to suspend doubt,
  • Facebook makes its revenue from advertisments,
  • Facebook advertisements are tailored to the likes and dislikes of its users,
  • Newspapers are going out of business because their advertising revenue is drying up,
  • News media online are finding it hard to attract subscribers – i.e. people who pay for news – because the internet is awash with the stuff, much of it on Facebook,
  • Every company with a product to sell is scrambling to find a way of attracting customers because the old ways are no longer effective.

So, what do all these ‘bits’ actually mean?

Close your eyes and imagine that Facebook is not a social media platform. Imagine instead that it is the biggest market research company in the world. Now, picture that market research company analysing all the data it receives from users and using the results to offer targeted ‘audiences’ to advertisers. For a price, those advertisers will get to place their advertisements in front of the people most likely to buy their products – the perfect, closed loop sales environment.

“So what’s wrong with that?” you say. “Facebook is merely doing what commercial TV has always done, just better, and it’s still the quality of the advertisment that ultimately sells the product. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether the product is a brand of toothpaste or a politician up for election; boring adverts get tuned out.”

There is an element of truth in that objection, and if that were all that Facebook does, I’d simply shake my head and say ‘buyer beware’.

But Facebook doesn’t just use data to push advertising to users. Facebook also hides information from users.

The official story is that the Facebook algorithms ensure your timeline displays only the information you actually want to see. In truth, much of the information hidden from users is advertising ‘spam’ of the “Please buy my XXX” kind. Given how boring such spam is, most users see Facebook’s actions as no different to the spam filter of their email.

The trouble with this view of Facebook is that email spam filters do not make money by selling a different kind of spam back to the user. Another difference is that real spam filters require the user to tell them what’s junk and what’s not, and even then, they often get it wrong. I know mine does. So how can we be sure that Facebook’s algorithms are any better? The simple answer is that we can’t, because we never get to see the ‘spam’. Facebook’s algorithms could be wildly wrong, but because we are never given a choice, we never get to find out.

I’m sure that the bulk of Facebook users will see this as pure convenience, but I see it as manipulation. And as far as I’m concerned, when manipulation is teamed with propaganda [selling advertising campaigns to politicians], I see the potential for a very dangerous situation.

While Facebook remains unchallenged in its ability to provide targeted advertising, its ability to manipulate users will probably remain merely a potential danger. But what happens when/if some other social media platform comes along to challenge Facebook? What if revenues begin to fall. Will Facebook continue to do the ‘right’ thing and distinguish between paid advertising and ‘content’? Or will it try to cheat the system the way German car maker Volkswagen did?

For those who don’t follow the news, Volkswagen created software for some of their cars that would make it appear that the car was EPA compliant when it was not. Why? Because it was cheaper to create the software than to make the cars truly compliant. Read money and shareholders’ profits.

The problem with Facebook is that it has the capacity to do more than just cheat the system. It has the capacity to completely subvert the system, effectively selling votes by manipulating what users do and do not see. It’s not such a big step to go from not seeing spam to not seeing ANY information that competes with the world view of the politician with the deepest pockets.

That’s why I see Facebook as having the potential to become the Big Brother of our nightmares. And if the unthinkable does happen, it will have done so with our free and willing consent.

 

Meeks


Just for fun

Couldn’t resist showing you a screenshot of an email I received from Amazon today :

amazon-advert-1

I’m thrilled that Amazon is sending these emails out but…you’d think the algorithm would be smart enough to know I’m not likely to buy something I published myself?

One of the other recommendations was a little odd as well because it’s for a novel I’ve already bought [from Amazon] and read. Still pretty chuffed though.:)

cheers

Meeks

 


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